Four of my all-time favorite books about gardens have kept my yearning for spring in check through the winter. Now I'm keeping them by the back door as references while I finish fall clean up (always a spring chore for me, the neglectful gardener). When I want to plan new gardens or revamp existing ones, I sit in the empty spaces and dream of what could be. These books fill those dreams with possibility. I know you'll love them as much as I do.
Windcliff by Daniel J. Hinkley
Hinkley is an award-winning horticulturist, plant collector and writer, and it is that last sublime talent that engages you and makes you want to know him. He has traveled all over the world, hunting plants and writing about his adventures. He and his husband Robert Jones landed in Washington state and have two renowned gardens, called Windcliff and Heronswood. You can buy the plants they raise but you have to pick them up - and who wouldn't want to visit Windcliff, where Hinkley uses everything he's learned about plants and garden design to create a spectacular site. The artful photography by Australian photographer Claire Takacs will make you want to go.
Spirit of Place by Bill Noble
The title caught me. I believe a garden should look like the biome it's planted in and so does Noble. He gardens at his old farm in Norwich, Vermont, so you'll think I'm returning to my New England roots, but he maintains fields, a barn, century-old apple trees and tough plants that withstand wind and other harsh conditions. Sound familiar? We can learn a lot from him about how to assure that your place looks like where it's sited. "I'm going to tell you a story of the pleasures and challenges, both aesthetic and practical, of creating a garden that feels genuinely rooted to its place," he writes in the intro, and then he does tell you the story, starting with a newfound love for gardens in his 30s. Take a tour of his property, Bragg Hill, for new ideas and the beauty of it all.
Life After Lawns: 8 Steps from Grass to a Waterwise Garden by Molly Bogh and Bill Schnetz
Molly Bogh was looking for ways to use her front yard for more than a turfgrass display, but couldn't find anyone whose advice was worth following. So she hired design-build landscaper Bill Schnetz and together they redid her property and wrote a book about how to do it. Judging by the eight steps they list, and the amount of time they spent on the project, we can tell that killing your grass is the least of it. Their book looks at all of the impediments to and the pleasures of building a beautiful and useful waterwise garden out of gravel and grass.
The Undaunted Garden by Lauren Springer Ogden
This was my Ur-handbook when I moved from rainy New England to the high desert. When I saw Springer Ogden's garden designs and plant images, I understood that a luscious plot still could be mine, even beside the "hell strip" of the driveway and sidewalk. She is a deft hand at amending soils, combining plants that have similar needs and choosing the hardiest species for your consideration. More than a few of my top-of-the-list plants from Connecticut can thrive here. But this year, I'm importing Astilbe (not recommended by Springer Ogden). A girl can dream.
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